Friday, 27 February 2009

It's Friday, it must be a Florentine

I'm celebrating the end of a draining week with a Florentine from Konditor & Cook. This was a compulsory purchase in accordance with one of my life rules, which states that whenever you are buying a present for someone, you should always buy one for yourself at the same time. I was in K&C asking after wheat-free indulgences for Miss L's birthday, and my attention was drawn to the aforepictured Florentine, a delicacy that my friend Ms H always praises as being 1oo% good stuff, with no boring filler – which is to say flour and eggs. I may be paraphrasing.

You can see me pointing to my self-gift in the picture, because my left index finger is in a constant state of pointing. I am permanently accusatory; in an ongoing state of Kitchener; Kitchenered. I am also, quite obviously, wearing a white fabric condom, but I have attempted to remain impassive about this ever since it was first being rolled down over my rigid, upturned digit by a male nurse and I realised any smirking on my part might constitute sexual harassment.

I am pretty much over the novelty of being a full-time bandage-wearer. I enjoyed the tragic glamour initially. I probably milked the act of fumbling to retrieve coins from my purse in shops. It has made me some new friends, such as CASHIER NUMBER 12 PLEASE! in Marks & Spencer on Southwark Street, who is very concerned for my welfare and the amount of pain I'm in, which is not much at all and only sometimes. I don't think I'm alone when I say that as a young child, I secretly wanted to break a limb so I could have it in plaster. Not enough to be seduced into launching myself off the highest point of the climbing frame towards a patch of unsympathetic concrete, but enough to pine for a painless minor fracture. Still, now I have experienced the metaphorical equivalent of a class of eight-year-olds crowding around me with their uncapped felt tips, I can say that I'll be glad to get back to PE lessons now.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Cheating on Strictly

I don't have much to say apart from if anyone could see their way to scheduling any TV programmes at all on a Sunday night that I might actually be interested in watching, that would be tremendous.

I was speaking to Mrs Jones this evening, who reported that her grandchildren, my nieces, the Young Miss Joneses have become very excited about Dancing On Ice. I would probably be quite excited about Dancing On Ice too, if I was under the age of 8 and had never seen Strictly Come Dancing

Similarly, I might be excited about Lark Rise To Candleford if I had never seen Cranford. As it is, the first series of bland, bloating Candleford (Blandleford, heh) was forced down my neck while I was still digesting Cranford, and I simply had to turn away for fear my jaw might dislocate, all the better to enable a foul, projectile jet of petticoats, raucous village-idiot laughter and Julia Sawalha to cascade forth. 

This is unfair. I like Julia Sawalha. Long-term readers will recall how she informed my fashion choices as a teenager.

I have flirted with Dancing On Ice.  Actually, I think we both know it went further than that. And even though we are pretty much over now, we will always have Steve Backley and, in some kind of light-entertainment nostalgia cocktail that seemed to have been blended just for me and the girls I shared a house with during our university years, Torvill and Dean dancing to Take That.

But there is a stigma attached to Dancing On Ice, in some quarters at least. A few weeks ago, I went with Miss L to see the Strictly Come Dancing live tour. Or possibly Live Tour. We had fun, in spite of the funereal atmosphere in the O2 arena. I blame this on the hangar-like performance space, and also the large number of utterly disinterested husbands present on spouse chaperone duty ('I'll come with you, I'll wear an item from the more respectable end of my knitwear spectrum, I'll pay out for a programme. But if you're asking me to uncross my arms at any point during the performance…') As a result of this abject crowd lameness, I'm slightly ashamed to say I found myself attempting to over-compensate, cheering and goading like a commission-famished holiday rep. 

In addition, we were forced to endure what I can only describe as a warm-up man, whose Herculean labours of hate were to induce mass clapping along to a playlist of dated party music, incite Mexican waves of varying success, and persuade individuals to leave the safety of the crowd, take to the floor and perform their signature moves to earn a prize that literally £5.99 could buy – Len Goodman's autobiography. Under the spotlights, Mr Warm-up's rictus grin and perma-tan are utterly robust, yet you know as the real show starts, he will roam the lonely corridors and dressing rooms like a ghost, painting on a sad clown's upside-down smile with Cherie's Lunghi's lipstick by the glow of a lightbulb-garlanded mirror.

Anyway, my point is, during the interval, I was standing in a queue to buy bad tea and unremarkable chocolate and I heard one of the women standing behind me whisper to her friend, in the same embarrassed way that women in adverts ask their friends if they've ever had intimate feminine itching: 'Are you watching… [pause while she dropped her voice the remaining few decibels] Dancing On Ice?'

It was as though, in watching it, she was somehow cheating on Strictly.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Cakeshop roadkill

I stumbled upon a double tragedy on the pavements of East Dulwich the other day.

First, outside the bakery, a suicidal synthetic cream horn. 

And then, just yards away, the broken form of a fallen Viennese Whirl.

I'm not saying the life of a Viennese Whirl is worth more than the life of a synthetic cream horn, but I found the second one particularly distressing. My photography skills have failed to clearly capture its haunting final moments, but in my defence, I was deeply shaken by what I'd seen.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Exciting statistical report

In the last month, someone has visited this blog because they googled the phrase 'andrew castle cock'.

They did not stay around long.

I am also proud to announce that this blog is the first returned result when you google 'Neville Southall's hobby'. I do not know what his hobby is. I am guessing cycling. Or bizarrely, if you believe Wikipedia/The Sun (and who doesn't?),  suing his own children.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Spring/summer 09

Post- post-operative infection, I have an exciting new bandage. My surgical stylist and I have gone for a more strappy, bondage-influenced look, while keeping the classic medical white colourway. I'm thinking Wild Boys by Duran Duran, as covered by the Jonas Brothers.

The infection was diagnosed by a very nice French locum at my GP's surgery, and I was reminded of France's historical association with farce when the end of the stethoscope around her neck swung towards me and and made forceable contact with my incredibly tender infected finger as she swooshed past to fetch some piece of equipment or other. 

(Actually, this is probably slapstick, not farce. But still, slapstick is the international language of comedy. Unfortunately. It only makes me incredibly cross. Even as a tiny child, I found it infuriating that Michael Crawford didn't just let go of the bus and come to a gentle stop against the kerb. Like, what an idiot.)

Anyway, with my directional new bandage and a fresh buffet of medication, my handwriting has progressed to the level of a promising 6-year-old, and I can now put my coat on in less than 10 minutes. Progress.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

One Hand Typing

I am not the fleet-fingered typist I usually am. This is because my left hand – the more intelligent and athletic of the two – currently looks like this:

And hurts like this: F!@%^&**J%)$^7

Despite its appearance, I didn't get it caught in a cartoon mousetrap. I had a little operation to remove some sub-ungual badness. Yep. I've got me some pretty flash-talkin' terminology. 

Although medical science refutes my theory, I would advise anyone against having nail extensions, even if they are free as part of a body makeover feature five years ago for the failing women's magazine which once employed you.

In the long dark hours while I wait for my allegedly high-strength painkillers to deign to be in any tiny way effective, I am amusing myself by performing silhouetted impressions of E.T. against my white walls, and ordering and reordering my preference of day-surgery-ward complimentary biscuits. It mostly goes like this:

1 Bourbons
2 Digestives
3 Custard creams
4 Fruit shortcake
5 Shorties

but sometimes I swap round the digestives and the custard creams.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Last weekend saw the 40th birthday celebrations of my sister-in-law, the wife of Jones Major. The Young Miss Joneses were in attendance, and for Young Miss Jones The Younger (6), it was an occasion on which to learn one of the first, and toughest, lessons of grown-up parties, when she said to me earnestly, 'I don't really understand why Mummy has invited people that I don't know.'

The evening's feature presentation was a barn dance. I am a reticent barn dancer, keeping to the dusty shadows of the room, far from the enforced hand-holding. This aversion is the direct result of a traumatic episode several years ago at an old schoolfriend's wedding. I had gone alone, and although I was surrounded by couples, at no point did I feel like half a person during their reception. This was mostly because they had barndancing which is inherently sociable, and there was indeed more partner-swapping than you'd find in Primrose Hill circa 2001. But as we reached the end of the evening, people were beginning to drift away, preferring to sit and chat, rather than throw themselves into a Gay Gordon. There was one final dance, and all my companions were standing up, ready to participate, with their real-life partners. I had sat down at our table with my drink, feeling not at all left out and more than happy to observe. However, one more couple was required to complete the 'set' (this is a technical term in barn dancing). 

'Come on, Hannah,' shouted one of my so-called friends at considerable volume, for which I can never forgive them.

'Hannah!' said the caller, seizing on my name like a famished spaniel. 'Come on, Hannah, up you come.' 

I obliged because occasionally I am quite public-spirited.  

'Right then,' said the caller, into his booming microphone, addressing the room. 'We just need a partner for Hannah.'

He looked expectantly around the hall.


No one.

'Come on! Anyone at all! Would anyone like to dance with Hannah?'

No one.

'Don't be shy. We just need one man. That's all. One man to dance with Hannah.'

Apparently, everyone around the room would rather have plunged the cake knife into their thorax than meet the caller's eye at that moment. 

'If one of you can come up here and play the accordion, I'll dance with her myself.'

Don't do me any favours, hippy.

'Come on, lads, one of you must want to dance with this lovely young lady.'

This went on for AGES.

I was furious. Not least because I was being made to feel like a misfit by a man in possibly the world's worst waistcoat.

Finally, finally, someone's cringe threshold was breeched and one man dragged his feet across the floor to stand by me.

Ludicrously, I found myself THANKING him. He responded by looking at the floor. For the whole dance. 

One day, approximately seven weeks later, my flaming cheeks were finally extinguished, but suffice to say that whenever barndancing is mentioned, I hear a Scottish accent in my head repeating 'Anyone at all?' and I remember vividly the shoes I was wearing that mortifying day, since I spent so long staring at them.

Still, last weekend was a far happier occasion. And perhaps the happiest part of the evening, for me, was the table of desserts, to which the Baking Mothership, Mrs Jones, contributed several dishes. Here she is captured in contemplation of them, like a brilliant military strategist surveying a map of conflict.

Yes, my new camera is so advanced, it can even take pictures in black and white.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Words shouted at me…

…by a very drunk former colleague, whom I had not seen in a long time, at about midnight yesterday:


In an evening of peculiar observations about my person, I was standing in the pub with Mrs G – both of us were wearing black, coincidentally both sporting a puffed sleeve, Mrs G with a small ruffle around the neckline of her top – and a man told us we looked like Elizabethan lesbians. 

It displays a kind of creativity I admire in an unflattering personal comment.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Slush, it must be said, is not good for one's morale. But I have found that cutting loose with some hundreds and thousands is quite the tonic.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Apples and oranges

I have a new camera. Luckily, the elements were kind enough to provide me with a meteorological dusting of icing sugar which makes all sweet things look more attractive.

Tomorrow we work, today we wear wellies

Of course, today's snow represented a temporary respite from financial meltdown and impending apocalypse, and the chance to regress to the unbridled childhood joy of snowball fights and a county-wide school shut-down.  

But more importantly, it justified the impulse purchase of those fur-lined wellingtons from an Orla Kiely sample sale.

For The Shennan, it was a chance to take the salmon-pink legwarmers out for a spin. 

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Tonight we're going to party like it's 1949, approximately

I have spent the weekend in the bosom of the Joneses, for the occasion of a family birthday, of which more later.

We have embarked on an ambitious programme of indexing the Jones photo archives and many treasures have come to light, of which this is my current favourite. 

Some reasons I love it:

Firstly, if it were embossed with some cheapening glitter, it could easily be populating the shelves of Paperchase.

Secondly, and most importantly, my lovely dad appears on the right of the frame, with the chin that is now mine, and the ears that he would one day grow into. 

Thirdly, let us enjoy the knitwear that celebrates peacetime with appliqued imitation planes divebombing the wearer's sternum.

Finally, the little girl with the bow, who is attempting to liven up what looks like a pretty stiff community party by preparing to snort her cola through a giant straw.